The CIA Proposed Assassinating Julian Assange?
A recent Yahoo News article (http://www.yahoo.com/news/cia-pitched-trump-officials-plans-130727657.html) reported that the CIA, under then Director Mike Pompeo, proposed several plans to either kidnap or kill Wikileaks founder and editor Julian Assange. I read the story, written by reputable journalists, and I don't know what to make of it. Right now the left is screaming, accusing the CIA of bloody murder and eating babies. The right is quiet waiting for someone to provide talking points on what to say and think because thinking always comes after speaking. I am still not sure what to think, but let's take it at face value.
My take on Assange and Wikileaks is that it has become a tool to attack the U.S. I say this because over time it has focused almost exclusively on trying to embarrass the United States. Yes, Wikileaks published some details that demonstrated U.S. atrocities in killing journalists, though maybe by accident. But it appears to have focused on publishing information that rather than point out wrongdoing merely serves to damage U.S. foreign relations. The release of a trove of State Department messages shows no crimes, no effort to do wrong, merely the honest and candid assessments of individuals, governments, and policies. I suspect Wikileaks and Assange have, at a minimum, been fed information by a hostile power intent on embarrassing the U.S. At worst, he is a willing collaborator of that hostile power.
That having been said, the reporting on CIA plans against Assange is worrisome, but not overly so. The reporting mostly mentions then CIA Director Pompeo and a group of senior CIA and Administration officials pushing the idea of kidnapping or assassinating Assange. Knowing how the CIA operates I suspect that what happened was a push by Pompeo and Administration officials to do something. These officials probably threw in kidnapping and assassination because they lack an understanding of intelligence operations and do not seem to have been in the habit of thinking things through. They were likely focused on catering to the demands of the President and Director, both of whom appear to have a Hollywood view of the CIA.
I can almost see the CIA officers’ faces when confronted by the demands to take action against Assange, a roll of the eyes followed by an earnest explanation as to why those options were most likely illegal, not viable, and very bad policy. When pushed they saluted and went about making plans safe within the knowledge that lawyers, both at CIA and the White House, would stop it. Anyone with a few years experience in the intelligence field would quickly see the futility of pushing forward these plans. Anyone with a modicum of wisdom would understand why it wasn't a good idea.
The idea of kidnapping or assassinating a citizen of an allied nation (Australia) in an allied country (United Kingdom) is bat shit crazy. It shows a total lack of understanding and is not grounded in reality. The UK would never allow us to carry out such an act. They already had Russia assassinate or attempt to assassinate several former intelligence officers, leading to strained relations between the countries. Does anyone honestly believe the UK would say it would be fine for the U.S. to do what we condemned Russia for? Did no one in the Administration not understand the definition of hypocrisy?
Before people start jumping all over the CIA for illegal activity, look at where the problem lies. This was the Trump Administration, or at least segments of it, pushing to conduct illegal acts. Why? What was the purpose of taking these types of actions against Assange? Neither would change the fact that classified information was leaked that caused serious harm to CIA collection capabilities, and provided hacking tools to anyone who wants them. You can thank Assange for some of the hacks of our information. Killing him would be seen as an act of petty revenge, whilst kidnapping him and having him stand trial in the U.S. would likely see him freed because of the illegality of the act. None of it makes sense. Was the Administration or Pompeo seeking revenge? Was Pompeo trying to appear strong in an effort to strengthen his image for a future presidential run?
As an aside, I went to the area of the Ecuadorian Embassy, principally because the department store Harrods is right around the corner. A great store with an amazing food section. I highly recommend it. The idea that the area around the embassy could be full of British, American, and Russian operatives monitoring the situation and waiting to take some action relative to Assange, as claimed in the article, is far-fetched. When I walked by there were two uniformed British police officers. There are days when there is a crowd of journalists and protestors when some new event or event occurs, but usually, the street is relatively quiet. Anyone spending more than a few minutes there would draw unwanted attention. 24/7 coverage of the embassy by non-British personnel would be extremely unlikely. The British are peckish when it comes to foreign spies hanging around to violate the laws of the UK, and the British Security Service is highly competent.
Ecuadoran Embassy, London
I don't believe this idea of kidnapping or killing Assange ever reached the serious stage. People should take some comfort in the fact that the system worked in this case. The crazy ideas were stopped in their tracks. Nothing was done.